Room treatment question

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Member Since: Apr 26, 2006

This is more of a question out of ignorance than out of anything more. But I see so much focus on room treatment and monitoring. I know MM can answer this. But shouldn't you be able to adjust through listening and learning the system you are using.

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Since: Nov 11, 2007

Dec 17, 2010 08:22 pm

I'm trying to learn my untreated room, like you're suggesting might be possible. I kind of agree with you, which is part of why I've held back on any major room treatments. I'm starting to question my ability to hear through the room's imperfections though.

Based on what I read, I knew I would have issues with low end in my room. For some reason, I intuitively assumed that the problems would be a 60-150Hz kind of sound. When I went to MM for some mastering, John ran a software thinger that calculated approximate standing waves in my room. According to his software, my problems were more in the low mid range than the low range.

This was apparent in my mix because I was thinking I was being clever to leave my 60-150Hz information a little bit hotter than what sounded ideal in my room, thinking that I was compensating some kind of standing wave. But no...this was just low end that was too hot. To make things worse, the low mids in my mix were too hot too (and I didn't expect a problem there, so I mixed as usual for that range). It could have been because I wasn't handy with EQ's at the time and didn't notch things properly...but I think a big part of it was my room failing to report the low mids accurately.

So the end result was a bunch of tracks that were too hot in the lower half of the audible spectrum...which is exactly the opposite of what one should go for, since our hearing is more sensitive to these freq's. If you were to look at my mix on a freq analyzer it would be a big downward slope; what we want is a slightly upward slope.

I'm still trying to listen 'through' my room's inaccuracies, but the learning curve is steep, mixing can be really stressful because I'm always second guessing myself. I check the mix on headphones and listen to bounces on consumer buds at work sometimes...but I'm about ready to treat this thing before I go nuts learning what's 'supposed' to sound wrong.

A friend of mine followed Ethan Winer's acoustic guide to build a fantastic (huge) listening room, and mixing with my system in his space is great. Stereo imaging is obvious, level changes are more noticeable and immediate. I really need to make a weekend out of building some traps....

Anyway, I think you're right, I think it IS possible to make a great mix in a less than perfect room...but #*%$ man it's hard. For me anyway.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Dec 17, 2010 08:40 pm

But shouldn't you be able to adjust through listening and learning the system you are using.

The problem is that every inch (seriously - ONE INCH can change EVERYTHING) you move, you're basically in a different room.

This is why "room correction software" isn't worth a bowl of warm sinus fluid - All it does is find problematic frequencies in a space and make them disappear -- Making an inaccurate space more inaccurate.

If you can even out the frequency response of the space, you can finally actually hear what's coming out of the speakers - And less of how the room is reacting to what's coming from the speakers.

For example -- If you have a null point in the mix position of 120Hz, you have a null point at 120Hz. You could boost 120Hz by 20dB and blow your woofers clear across the room while on fire and you're not going to hear it.

But move a foot away and you'll hear the *peak* at 120Hz -- If you were *there* a moment ago, you'd have cut 120Hz by 10-15dB (depending on the severity of the peak) and now you have no 120Hz in your mix anymore.

Your room has peaks and nulls - There's no question about that. Certain formulas can help figure where some of those problematic frequencies might be -- But the only way to really work around them is to stop the problem.

Since: Apr 26, 2006

Dec 18, 2010 03:36 am

I do understand that moving an inch makes it a different room. But if we go back to time of live recording in one room., I'm taking a blind shot here and saying perhaps this might have been the way Grand Funk Railroad recorded. Or any other group that does or has. Are we talking about perceived frequencies or real differences we can hear?
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Dec 18, 2010 10:49 am

I concur with MM on the room change thing too.

Man i have bass trapping in my room and i only have to move back and to the left 50 inches and the bass is overpowering, mainly on the kick drums.

I get what youre saying tho BD. To some extent for most us here, you'll have to take in some consideriations when mxing in a DIY studio.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Dec 18, 2010 11:35 am

Those older recordings -- Ones made while everyone was live in the same room -- Those were made in really, really, really good rooms. Been in several of them myself.

Even the very 'live' rooms have obscene amounts of low end trapping 'behind the scenes' (God knows if I were building a new room from scratch, you wouldn't be conscious of the hundreds of pounds of broadband trapping that would be in it).

These are definitely real differences you can hear. Easily hear.

You want to experience some of it? Make a sine sweep - Something fairly quick, maybe 6 or 7 seconds and only between 70 and 180Hz (just taking a stab here).

Play that on a loop and very slowly wander around the room (stopping to listen, of course). You'll hear things that will absolutely shock you - Guaranteed. It will scare the hell out of you and make you wonder how you could possibly ever get a reasonably decent mix in that space. You'll hear null points that sound like there's a "bubble" around you where certain frequencies can't penetrate, you'll hear peaks that will rattle your eyeballs - And moving a foot away will change it all.

And those changes will still be easily perceptible in a reasonably well-treated (a dozen broadband traps, for example) space also -- Although the peaks may be 10dB instead of 15 and the nulls points may be 20dB instead of 30.

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